“I realized that no matter what was happening in my life, when I was in the kitchen, that was my safe place.” – Aarti Sequeira
ISSUE: Winter 2010
STORY: Janice Jann
Time spent with Aarti Sequeira really is a party. The season six champ of Food Network’s number one series, The Next Food Network Star, is full of life, from her cascading waterfall of dark curls to her lyrical British accent.
With the year winding down, Audrey Magazine has narrowed down some greats of 2010.
Aarti Sequeira: The Next Food Network Star [Season 6]
We already told you that Aarti Sequeira won season 6 of The Next Food Network Star. She already has her own cooking show of The Food Network and is doing very well. She struggled a little in the beginning with her confidence, stating in an interview with us that she “didn’t think [she] had the culinary chops to compete with these people and challenges that were requiring you to cook in 15 minutes or something.” However, the judges really liked her for her unique take in which she incorporated her knowledge of Indian cuisine into classic American dishes. We will always remember her as a bubbly star who is very passionate in cooking.
Alex Wong: So You Think You Can Dance [Season 7]
Alex Wong may be one of the best dancers to have graced the SYTYCD stage. His exit due to an injury to his Achilles tendon was definitely one of the saddest moments on the show. This classically trained ballet dancer was a potential front-runner who many predicted would’ve won the show if it wasn’t for his misfortune. He gave America a strong first impression with a heartfelt contemporary piece to Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” danced with Allison Holker and choreographed by Travis Wall. His best moment though, has to be his hip-hop routine with Twitch to “Outta Your Mind” by Lil Jon and LMFAO, choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon. Best wishes to Alex to full recovery.
Andy South: Project Runway [Season 8]
I love a designer who designs edgy clothes, and Andy South was definitely one of them. His signature looks all have a warrior-women resemblance. I was in disbelief that he managed to just braid and fold ribbons together to create a beautiful little black dress. He made it into the finale this season, but unfortunately, lost himself a bit at the end. Nonetheless, I am proud of his successes and hope he makes it far.
Kevin Wu and Michael Wu: The Amazing Race [Season 17]
Kevin Wu is an established Youtube star, better known as KevJumba. He has over a million subscribers on Youtube for his comedic videos. Michael Wu is his father and they went into the competition knowing their personalities are not the most compatible. Nonetheless, they managed to place 7th on The Amazing Race. Their best placement was third in Leg 2 and Leg 6.
Poreotics: America’s Best Dance Crew [Season 5]
This all-male Asian-American dance crew is best known as the winners of ABDC. Their name is derived from their specialization in popping, choreography and robotics, hence Po-reo-tics. They’ve been safe almost all season long, landing in the bottom two only once the week before the finale. Since the show, they made an appearance on Justin Bieber’s “Somebody to Love” video. They also formed Miniotics after their victory, which is a second sector of their crew that consists of dancers ages 16 and under.
Have you ever met someone whose primary diet consists of carrot cake and banana nut muffins and ice cream? Whose sweet face belies her even sweeter tooth? Meet Dorothy, our resident Dessert Tourist. Dorothy will be Audrey’s resident Dessert Tourist, zipping in and out of bake shops and dessert cafes and ovens to share with us some of life’s sweetest.
I have a love/hate relationship with rainy days. They are so cold, gloomy, dreary and wet. I hate leaving the house on rainy days, but I can’t stand being stuck inside the house either. They make me fat because I usually spend rainy days snuggled up in bed with a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, catching up on reading. So this week of crazy rainstorms in Southern California has not been good for me. But I also love rainy days. They’re so warm and comforting; since I spend all of mine snuggled up indoors. And the world smells fantastic after a rain washes the air of pollution and impurities. But most of all? I love rainy days because they are the perfect days to make bread pudding. I decided to tackle Aarti Sequeira’s Huggy Buggy Bread Pudding this time. (Aarti also happens to be in the latest issue of Audrey magazine. Check it out!)
Aarti calls this dessert “Huggy Buggy” because it hugs you from the inside out. This is a bread pudding with an Indian twist, as it is infused with coconut and spices, and filled with figs. Coconut-ty, moist, fragrant, and absolutely fantastic with a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream, this bread pudding really does warm you up from the inside out.
Not only is it delicious, this dessert is also a cinch to make. The liquid ingredients come together in one bowl, and are then tossed with the dry ingredients. The entire process takes about 7 minutes (but let the pudding soak for at least 15 minutes before it goes into the oven).
Perfect for that rainy day.
Huggy Buggy Bread Pudding (adapted from Aarti Sequeira)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the melted butter into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and use a pastry brush to make sure the dish is well coated. Alternately, spray the pan very, very, very well with baking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together, then add the coconut milk, the whole milk, the spices and a pinch of salt. Add bread, figs, and the coconut milk the figs were soaking in, and toss. Let soak for at least 15 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the prepped baking dish and sprinkle with the cashews. Bake until the pudding pulls away from the sides of the dish, about 35 minutes.
Remove the pudding from the oven and serve with ice cream.
*If your baguette is not stale, cut it into chunks and toast the chunks for 15 minutes to dry the bread out.
Time spent with Aarti really is a party. The season six champion of Food Network’s number one series, The Next Food Network Star is full of life; from her cascading waterfall of dark curls to her lyrical British accent. Aarti Sequeira was born in Bombay, India and grew up in her mother’s kitchen. Though her mom’s flavorful Indian spices had always surrounded her childhood, Aarti didn’t try her hand at cooking until she got married and moved to LA. Instead, the TV personality worked as a journalist for many years, producing for CNN in Chicago and New York. After taking some classes at a local cooking school, Aarti knew that she wanted to make food her career. But how to go about it? Aarti decided to combine her love of journalism and food together- creating an online cooking variety show and blog called Aarti Paarti. The show caught Food Network’s attention and the rest is history. Or just starting. After winning the reality show, Aarti’s show Aarti Party premiered on August 22 for six episodes that ran through the end of Sept. to great audience feedback. 13 more episodes for a new season are currently in production. From conjuring up the perfect summer picnic to warming up a cold rainy day, Aarti brushes up classic American dishes with a touch of her Indian heritage. Audrey caught up with the next food network star in Culver City, CA, fresh from shooting her first season.
Audrey: So Aarti, you started as a journalist, what made you switch career paths?
I started working at CNN a week after I graduated from university. I loved working there. There’s so much integrity and intelligence there but when I moved to LA, I really had to hustle for freelance jobs. I realized that I’m not a lazy person but I don’t really have that drive anymore for journalism in that form. A couple of years after I moved here, I worked with a Peabody award winning director on a documentary about Darfur that ended up being bought by HBO. That made me feel like, “okay, this is what I was supposed to be doing.” The same journalistic ideals and we’re going deep, deep, deep into it figuring out what is going on. But right around that time, the economy was starting to tank and no one wanted to make docs about Africa anymore. So that was when I started cooking it became the highlight of my day. It really helped me realized that no matter what was happening in my life, when I was in the kitchen, that was my safe place, that was my quiet place. That’s where I could control things.
Audrey: How did your online cooking show and blog catch the attention of Food Network?
Food Network started doing their casting for The Next Food Network Star and people popped up randomly telling me to audition for this show. I was really hesitant. I didn’t think I had the culinary chops to compete with these people and the challenges that were requiring you to cook in 15 minutes or something. But my husband said to me, “listen, we’re going to make a video, we’re going to send it in and we’re going to see what happens. You have nothing to lose. And so we did and that was it.
Audrey: It seems like your husband is very supportive of you.
My husband has always been my champion. We’ve been together 14 years and he’s always seen so much in me that I don’t see in myself. When I happened upon this cooking show idea, he hopped on it. He’s an actor-director and he understands forging your own way and trying to do what you want to do until someone comes knocking on your door and says, “I like what you’re doing and I want to pay you to do it.”
Audrey: As artists, did you guys ever struggle financially? How did that reflect in your cooking?
Brendan and I have definitely struggled. A year ago, I wasn’t even sure if we could make rent so we’ve really had to make a lot of sacrifices. But it’s been entirely worth it. So that kind of thinking is always going to pop up in my show anyway. Even in the competition, they would give us a budget and I would always spend the least money out of everyone (laughs). Even though I was making these things that were- for lack of a better word-exotic, I always came up really under budget. That’s just the way I cook. With Indian food, at least the kind that I grew up eating, there are so many vegetables, lentils, beans and things in the cuisine- it’s really a budget friendly way of cooking.
Audrey: Speaking of Indian spices. How does your Indian heritage influence your cooking?
I think what I’m trying to do is open the door for Indian cuisine for America. There are people out there who have been championing Indian cuisine for years. What I’m trying to do is take those traditional Indian flavors and wrap them around some classic American dishes so they’re not that intimidating. Here is a whole new way to enjoy Indian spices without overextending yourself. I try to use the spices that you can find at the regular supermarket- tamarack, cumin, and oleander-all those things. I’ve been kind of astonished actually by how many people have run out, bought the spices, come home, made what I made and would upload pictures. I’ve just been floored by that.
Audrey: If you get a season 2, where do you think you will take your food to?
I’m always on my Facebook page. So I post on there, “what do you guys want to learn how to make?” I got 300 comments within a couple of hours and people are asking how to make these really traditional Indian dishes. They weren’t asking for fusion, they were asking me for the authentic stuff. That was so encouraging to me, I was like, okay, after this season, god willing if I get season 2, there’s an appetite out there. People are willing to order the ingredients online. Or they’re willing to hunt them down in Indian stores.
Audrey: Being a cooking show host is partially about the food but partially about the host’s on-camera personality. Have you always been this telegenic?
My husband is an actor and he would take these improv classes. I would go to his shows every week and I was floored that there were so many things about improv that was affecting his personality in a really helpful way. The great thing about improv is that there are so many things you can completely carry over into real life. Focusing on other people more than yourself or just making a decision and trusting your gut. So I took these classes and it really gave me a sense of confidence. It helped me realize I really do have good instincts and I just have to trust them. That helped in being willing to improvise in the kitchen and trusting my palate. It really helped with my personality because it pulled me out of my shell and it made me feel like I was worthy of being heard, I guess.
Judging from the positive reviews the show has been receiving, it would seem like the rest of America feels like she’s worthy of being heard as well.
Check out Aarti Party Sundays at 12PM ET/PT on the Food Network. You can also read more about Aarti at www.aartipaarti.com
In our Must-See Shows: Summer TV post last week, we highlighted contestant Doreen Fang of season 6 of The Next Food Network Star, airing on Sundays at 9 pm on The Food Network.
Well, we forgot to mention Aarti Sequeira, a contestant who is of Indian descent! The 31-year-old Los Angeles native was born in India and raised in Dubai. The CNN producer-turned-host of online cooking show “Aarti Paarti” specializes in Indian flavors incorporated into American classics.
Sequeira says her favorite food destination is Dubai for its diversity of global cuisine, including that of Iran, India and the Philippines. And if she had to make a special dinner, she’d make samosas, tandoori chicken, her mom’s potato salad, mango-dusted roasted cauliflower and coconut sorbet. Mmmm.
Catch Sequeira and the other contestants on The Next Food Network Star, airing Sundays at 9 pm.